Don’t expect a COVID-19 vaccine until 2021

Health care workers and first responders first priority

While the state has submitted its preliminary plan for COVID-19 vaccine distribution to the Centers for Disease Control and prevention, local health officials say residents shouldn’t expect a vaccine until January at the earliest.

Once a vaccine is approved and licensed for U.S. residents, initial distribution will start with first responders and frontline health care workers in the state, and the vaccines will be limited in quantity at the start, said Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County health officer.

“Really the timeline will be determined by the availability of vaccine and then the amount of vaccine that is available,” Locke said.

“It’s a very complicated situation, because there probably will be multiple different types of vaccine,” Locke said.

Currently, there are four vaccines in the U.S. that are in Phase 3 trials, which is the last trial phase before potential licensing and approval.

Prioritizing first responders and front line health care workers for the vaccine is an important way to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, said Locke.

“One of the reasons it’s so important to protect health care providers and first responders is not only are they at risk of being harmed by it, but if they do get it, they can spread it to other vulnerable populations,” said Locke.

“So you get the most bang for your buck for any vaccine by immunizing your frontline healthcare workers first, and then you give it to people who are most likely to suffer complications for infections, but that has the major caveat of the vaccines have to work in those populations.”

The vaccines that are in Phase 3 trials have started to be tested in people 65 and older, so far the results have been promising, Locke said.

Upcoming holidays

While both Locke and Clallam County Health Officer Dr. Allison Unthank have said that Halloween trick-or-treating can be done with precautions such as mask wearing and social distancing, both are urging people be extremely cautious for the upcoming Thanksgiving and December holidays.

Unthank recommends that celebrations should be kept among household members, but if people have to gather, no more than two households together, as well as avoid having high-risk people on the guest list.

In addition, use face masks and social distancing when possible when having gatherings, they said.

“Now is a really important time not to have big dinners with your grandparents, for example, because that really would be quite risky,” Unthank said.

“Instead, what we recommend is have a nice celebration with your household and certainly face-timing with high-risk relatives letting them know you’re thinking about them and that you are thankful for them, even though you can’t be with them in person.”

Both officers are urging people not to travel this holiday season, saying traveling to different states increases risk for infection. Signs of the “Third Wave” of infections has already begun, they said, meaning case rates are going to continue to climb.

“Now is really not a good time to get on a plane and fly across the country to gather with other people indoors,” said Unthank. “That’s kind of a recipe for transmission.”

While this holiday season is overshadowed by the current pandemic, Locke expects that will not be the case next year.

Four new cases

Jefferson County confirmed three new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, while Clallam County confirmed one. All were being investigated as to how they may have contracted the novel coronavirus, Locke and Unthank said.

Jefferson County has confirmed 84 cases of COVID-19 since March, with 13 active cases and no deaths, according to Jefferson County Public Health data.

Clallam County has confirmed 272 cases of COVID-19 since March, with 14 active cases and one death, according to Clallam County Public Health data.

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Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5 or at [email protected].

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